Review: Here and Now by Julia Denos

Here and Now by Julia Denos

Here and Now by Julia Denos, illustrated by E.B. Goodale (9781328465641)

The team who created the award-winning picture book Windows returns with a look at mindfulness. The book walks readers through a different way to view their own place in the world. It closely examines the ground under our feet and what is happening all around us at any given time, like rain collecting in a cloud. Animals around us are living their lives. We are on a planet spinning in space. New friends are waiting and new connections are being formed. And you, you are becoming something too!

Denos writes in a poetic manner that draws lovely connections between us and our entire environment. She places the reader right in this moment, acknowledging the changes happening all around us and the fact that we ourselves are changing too. This is a book that looks at us as individuals but even more as part of something much larger than ourselves. The illustrations by Goodale are dramatic and impactful. Her diverse cast of characters travel through spinning space along with the reader, enjoying the stars, nature and community along the way.

Inclusive and universal, this book invites you to think differently. Appropriate for ages 3-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: The Girl and the Wolf by Katherena Vermette

The Girl and the Wolf by Katherena Vermette

The Girl and the Wolf by Katherena Vermette, illustrated by Julie Flett (9781926886541)

When a little girl wanders too far from her mother while they are picking berries, she finds herself lost in the woods. Unable to figure out how to return home, she starts to panic. Suddenly, a large gray wolf appears and using his nose, figures how where she comes from. But night is falling, so the wolf asks the girl a series of questions that demonstrate how much she really knows. He encourages her to take a deep breath, close her eyes, and then look. When the girl does this, she realizes that she can see berries that are safe to eat and water that is safe to drink. She eats and drinks, then the wolf encourages her to breathe deeply again. Now she recognizes the stand of trees nearby and finds her way back to her mother who explains that she has heard of wolves that help lost children. The little girl later leaves a gift of thanks for the wolf’s aid.

This book is a complete re-imagining of the Little Red Riding Hood story into one with a First Nation spin. Vermette is a Metis writer from Treaty One territory in Winnipeg. She has entirely turned Little Red Riding Hood into a story of the strength of a little girl who only needs help to figure out that she had the ability all along. The quiet and encouraging wolf is such a shift from European stories, energizing the entire picture book with his presence.

Flett’s illustrations keep the little girl in red, clearly tying this new story to its origins. The wolf is almost as large as the girl, making his threatening presence strong when he first appears but also offering a real sense of strength as he is better understood as the tale unfolds. The art is filled with strong shapes and rich colors.

An entirely new telling of Little Red Riding Hood, this is one to share when learning about independence and mindfulness. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.

 

 

The White Cat and the Monk by Jo Ellen Bogart

Groundwood Logos Spine

The White Cat and the Monk by Jo Ellen Bogart, illustrated by Sydney Smith (InfoSoup)

A white cat named Pangur and a monk live together. At night, by candlelight the two work side by side. The monk quietly studies his books. The cat hunts mice along the walls, examining a mouse hole. The two do not disturb one another. At the end of the night, as day comes, they have both found what they were seeking. One searching for the joy of an answer to a puzzle and the other for the satisfaction of a successful hunt.

This picture book is a retelling of a classic Old Irish poem “Pangur Bán.” It is a tale that is contemplative and quiet. It offers space to simply be, a world of solitude and study, and also one that is filled with richness of the most simple forms. Bogart captures the power of a man’s simple monastic life accompanied by an animal companion. In particular, it is the interplay of their evening activities that demonstrate the impact of the natural world on even the quietest of evenings.

Smith’s illustrations evoke a period of time that is filled with illuminated texts, thick stone monastery walls and the light of several candles. They are done with rich blacks and subtle colors, the light playing across the page as the cat seeks dark corners.

A beautiful look at the power of contemplation, mindfulness and cats. Appropriate for ages 5-7.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: I Am Yoga by Susan Verde

I Am Yoga by Susan Verde

I Am Yoga by Susan Verde, illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds (InfoSoup)

A girl explains how yoga helps her in her day. When she is feeling the world is moving too quickly and that her thoughts are racing, she uses yoga to slow her mind, stop her heart from racing, and make room for creativity and ideas. The book then moves into the girl doing yoga positions which she describes in terms of the way that they make her feel. They make her shine like a star, feel like she is dancing with the moon, seeing far and wide, and sailing on the sea. She also talks about what those moves do, like make her more focused, open her heart, and be more playful. Basically, it is a book that celebrates yoga and the many ways that it can impact your day and make you more mindful.

Verde’s words are ones of joy and cheer. She captures the zing of the busy day and the distractions that come with it. Then comes the centering and slowing and the yoga, that are quieter and even more joyful. The focus is on the beauty of those moments, the way they transform a person and the feeling that you are left with afterwards. The mindful piece is clearly there, though yoga and its movements takes center stage.

Reynolds uses simple images to convey the feelings of the various movements. Awash with watercolors, the line drawings glow on the page. Some pages have just one color while others have sunsets of oranges, yellows and purples. The use of the bright colors makes the book a rainbow to read, moving from one feeling to the next and guided by the colors themselves.

A vivid and lovely look at yoga and its power to transform, the book ends with a guide to the yoga positions seen in the book. Appropriate for ages 3-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: Little Monkey Calms Down by Michael Dahl

little monkey calms down

Little Monkey Calms Down by Michael Dahl, illustrated by Oriol Vidal

This is the latest in the Hello Genius series and is a nice addition.  Little Monkey is having a very bad day.  He has an ice cream cone, but it drops on the floor.  Little Monkey throws a tantrum but then uses some coping techniques to calm back down.  First, he lets himself cry a bit, then snuggles with a blanket.  He takes deep breaths, sings quietly and is still and relaxed.  Once he feels calmer, his parents give him lots of loving attention and they are set to have a good day.

This book handles toddler tantrums in a very positive and child-centered way.  It offers ideas for even the youngest children to model.  The narrator voice sounds like a parental voice, so its advice is offered lovingly.  I particularly appreciate a book that tells a child it is fine to cry after a disappointment.  The entire book exudes warmth and love for this little monkey.

Vidal’s illustrations are invitingly cartoon-styled.  Little Monkey’s tantrum is really something to behold but so is his final quiet time where the page shines with bliss. 

A great pick for toddlers, this book will be appreciated by parents using gentler parenting techniques with their children as well as schools and parents looking for mindful books for young children.  Appropriate for ages 1-3.

Reviewed from digital galley received from Hello Genius and NetGalley.

Review: When Lions Roar by Robie H. Harris

when lions roar

When Lions Roar by Robie H. Harris, illustrated by Chris Raschka

The author of It’s Perfectly Normal joins forces with a Caldecott Medalist to create this picture book.  It is the story of a young boy who is overwhelmed by a visit to the zoo with all of the animal noises.  He also gets scared of a thunder storm, sirens and mommy and daddy shouting.  When it all becomes too frightening, the boy sits down, shuts his eyes and tells the scary to go away.  And it does.  Then he can hear the quiet again and he stands back up and opens his eyes.  He is off to run in the sunshine, look at nature and hear the softer sounds around him.

This is a simple picture book with lines that don’t rhyme but a rhythm that ties them all together into almost verse.  Harris captures the feeling of a child overwhelmed by noise but also by negative things happening.  I appreciate that the child solves the issue on his own by becoming introspective and mindful and not by having a tantrum.  It is a book about centering oneself and calming down even in a loud environment.  The return to being able to hear the softer things and enjoy your surroundings again is particularly effective.

Rashka’s art is his signature style with loose sweeps of paint in bright colors.  His images are swirls of movement that work very well with the subject matter.  From the noises in the air to the quieter moments, the boy’s entire body language changes as he gives in to the overwhelming feelings first and then recovers from them.

A strong book, this is one that will encourage children to center themselves and be in charge of their own reactions to overstimulation.  Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from copy received from Orchard Books.

All of Me! A Book of Thanks

All of Me! A Book of Thanks by Molly Bang

A small child thanks each body part for how well they work.  Fine feet hold you up, hands can grab and hold, arms to hug, mouth, eyes, nose, ears, and heart.  Each bit of us is constantly supporting our life, allowing us to do what we need to do.  Every day we feel so many different things, do so many different things.  And in the end?  We are part of the universe and alive!

Bang’s art is so beautiful and simple here.  The end pages of the book feature some of her work space and then some ideas for children to start creating their own illustrations and books.  The book features felt, crayon, paint, and most importantly for its inherent feel: brown paper bags.  The brown paper creates a very organic feel to the book that works brilliantly with the subject.

Her words are simple too, allowing children to really think about what each of their body parts does. They will also realize how important each of these small functions are to their days and lives.  Bang approaches all of this with a sense of joy and playfulness that is echoed in the art.

For parents who are practicing mindfulness or daily gratitude, this book is the perfect way to get your children thinking in a positive way about small, basic parts of their lives.  Appropriate for ages 2-5.

Reviewed from library copy.